Word of the Week: Sacrament

Word of the Week: Sacrament

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Rob Sauers takes a look at the sacraments – what they are, and what their meaning is for us today. The word is not found in any English Bible. It comes from the Latin word Sacramentum which was used in a number of places in the Latin Vulgate (the Bible used in the Roman Catholic Church for many years) to translate the Greek word mystērion. This is where we get our English word “mystery” and, in fact, in the Eastern Orthodox churches, the sacraments are often called mysteries. The word mystērion is often used in the NT to describe the unseen things of God. The word has this general application to “signs” of grace – dreams, visions, miracles, the prophetic word, and ultimately, the Incarnate Word. In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” It is in connection with the Incarnation – the Word made flesh – that the sacraments were defined by the early church. The 4th Century Church Father Augustine referred to the sacraments as visible grace. By the 12th century, the Catholic Church defined the sacraments as those things that were either explicitly or implicitly instituted by Christ and came up with 7 – Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, confirmation, penance, ordination, matrimony, and extreme unction (anointing with oil). However, it is clear from Scripture that two of these rites stand out from the rest as special means of grace and so in the Lutheran Church, we celebrate two sacraments – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

When we talk about the sacraments in the Lutheran Church we speak of those sacred acts that have three characteristics: (1) A sacrament is instituted by Christ. (2) A sacrament has earthly elements – that is, Christ tells us to use something on the earth. For example: water, bread, wine. (3) A sacrament gives spiritual blessings – like forgiveness of sins, spiritual life, and eternal salvation. We can see how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper each have these characteristics as described in Scripture. Baptism was instituted by Christ in Matthew 28:19 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It has the earthly element of water and it is a means of grace that gives spiritual blessings. In Acts 22:16 we read “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” And so we see that Baptism washes away our sins. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper has all of these characteristics. We see all of these present in Matthew 26:26-28“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” So we see that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by Christ, we see the earthly elements of bread and wine mentioned, and we see that it is for the forgiveness of sins.

Now, for many of you listening, you probably learned this definition of the Sacraments when you were in Catechism classes. You’ve probably been baptized and you receive the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis. But how often to you stop and really think of what special blessings these means of grace really are? If you’re like me, probably not often enough, and so I want to conclude our study of this word by talking a little about the wonderful blessings we have in the sacraments. Think of your Baptism. It’s so much more than just an event that happened at one point in time – for many of you, at a time when you were just an infant and can’t even remember it. You Baptism has a lasting effect on your entire life. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Like a college basketball player at NBA draft time, the Lord has selected us to be a part of His team. Those of us who have been Baptized are wearing His uniform. That uniform gives us an identity. We are children of God whom He made members of His team not because of our playing ability, but solely because of His grace – because He has clothed us in His uniform. Think of what a difference that makes in our lives. We can awaken every day and tell ourselves, “I am baptized!” And Paul tells us what a meaningful reality that is in Romans 6:3-5“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Because Christ has made us His own in Baptism, we have eternal life to look forward to. What a blessing! Now unlike Baptism which is done once with that lasting effect we’ve just talked about, the Lord’s Supper is done repeatedly throughout our lives. When we receive this Sacrament, we can focus on those words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Our Savior is coming close and getting personal with us. It’s more intimate than our corporate confession and absolution. In the Lord’s Supper, our Savior whispers the sweet words of forgiveness in our ears. He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Life in this world is a struggle. Our faith needs the strengthening which the Lord’s Supper gives. So let us receive our Lord’s Supper often and remember His blood shed on the cross for us and receive that forgiveness of sins. In the world in which we live today, we are tempted at times to ask, “Where in the world are you, God?” Many people look for an inner voice or to their feelings and emotions to find God. But we have something more sure than that. We have His means of grace. We have His Word. And we have His Sacraments which show us that Jesus has kept His promise to us when He said in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And so, we give thank to our God for the wonderful gifts He gives us in His Sacraments.

 

Bible Study – Deuteronomy

Bible Study – Deuteronomy

Today, Pastor Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew go into the last book of Moses, the book of Deuteronomy.  This book is Moses’ farewell address to the Children of Israel after leading them for 40 years and preparing them to enter the land the Lord had promised to give them.  Here Moses reviews the Lord’s promises to His people and all that He has done for them in the past, as He encourages them to be faithful and to trust in the Lord as they enter the land of promise under the leadership of Joshua.  They will also discuss how the Lord gives different gifts to each person.  Moses and Joshua had different gifts, but both were given by the Lord at the right time for the benefit of His people.  The same Lord still gives different gifts to His church through different servants, that His kingdom may be built up on earth and in the hearts and lives of His people.  Thanks be to God for His many blessings and promises!

Word of the Week: MISSION

Word of the Week: MISSION

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Nathanael Mayhew discusses the word “mission” as it relates to the work of Jesus, and the mission He has given to His church.  The word “mission” means to “send or be sent for some duty or purpose”.  The word itself is not used often in many Bible translations, but the concept is.  Jesus was given a mission.  He was sent for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil and by His life and death delivering sinners from death and the curse of sin.  Jesus accomplished that mission when He died on the cross.  He also sends His followers out with the mission of serving as witnesses of that accomplished fact.  He sends those who know and believe in Him out to “teach all things that He has commanded.”  We don’t have to cross the globe to carry out this mission.  It begins in our own homes with our families, with our neighbors and friends.  Father’s play a vital role in that mission, as they are to teach their children the truths of God’s Word, and bring them up in the “instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).  Thanks be to Jesus for accomplishing His mission of saving us sinners of which we are missionaries!

Review – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Review – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As we enter the season of Trinity, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers review the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S.Lewis.  They will discuss Lewis’ life and journey from Atheism to Christianity and the radio shows he did which became the book under discussion.  Lewis discusses the problems of many of the religions of the world in dealing with the the problem of evil, and who Jesus is.  He discusses the person of Jesus as true God, the Christian life, and the Trinity.  While there are many excellent observations in the book, Lewis also falls short and even into error in many areas.  He does not get into justification by Grace, or even the work of Christ as our Savior.  He also confuses Law and Gospel and falls into Arminianism in connection with our sanctification.  We pray that this review will be helpful to those who have read or interested in reading Lewis’ book. 

Bible Study – Numbers

Bible Study – Numbers

This week Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers open up the Old Testament book of Numbers in our Bible Study series.  Where did the name “Numbers” come from?  From the census taken at the beginning and the end of the book.  Why is this information included?  To show that this is real history, and to show the size of the people that God had brought out of Egypt, would provide for, and ultimately lead into the promised land.  Is there another more fitting name for this book?  The Hebrew title is “Wilderness Wandering” which describes the main content of the book.  Because of unbelief, the people were not allowed to enter the promised land of Canaan after they spied it out.  They would have to wander in the wilderness for almost 40 years until the older generation was replaced by a new generation whom the LORD would lead into Canaan.  Can Christ be found in Numbers?  He is found in a number of places, one of which is in the Bronze Serpent in Numbers 21.  The Bronze Serpent is a clear picture of Christ and how He gives life to sinners, dying because of our sin, through His death on the cross.  Learn about these questions and much more in the book of Numbers when you listen to this podcast.  The LORD bless your study! 

CPR – Why do we follow a “Church Year”?

CPR – Why do we follow a “Church Year”?

This week Pastors Rob Sauers and Nathanael Mayhew discuss the reason we follow a “church year” in our worship services.  The church year actually has roots in the Old Testament where God gave the nation of Israel a “church year” that they were to follow so that they would keep focused on God and His promises to them.  While many churches do not follow a church year, it is a valuable tool to help us study the life and work of Jesus and the effect His redemeption has on us as Christians.  We will walk through each of the New Testament seasons of the church year and thier purpose, where they have come from, and why we follow this system, year in and year out.  We pray this is a helpful review and reminder of the benefits of following a church year.

Word of the Week: SACRIFICE

Word of the Week: SACRIFICE

On this Memorial Day we consider the word “sacrifice.”  The word sacrifice as it is used today means to give up something of value for the sake of someone or something else.  But its real meaning is deeper than that.  Sacrifice has to do with death.  Death is what made something a sacrifce.  On Memorial Day we remember those who have given their lives to secure and maintain the freedoms and liberty that we enjoy today.  As important as those sacrifices are, there is another, greater sacrifice that has secured and even greater freedom for all people of all time.  That is the sacrifice that Jesus made when He gave up His life for sinners on the cross.  Paul writes: “Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).  We deserved death because of our sin against God, but Jesus took our place and died so that we might live.  This sacrifice of Jesus is the most important thing in this life! As you celebrate Memorial Day today, consider also the sacrifice that Christ made to set you free from slavery to sin and death, and thank God for the salvation He has won for us through the sacrifice of Jesus! 

Review – Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels by Jaroslav Vajda

Review – Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels by Jaroslav Vajda

As we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus today, Pastors Nathanael Mayhew and Rob Sauers review and discuss the modern Ascension Day hymn, “Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels” (Hymn 737 in “Worship Supplement 2000”).  The author of this hymn was a 20th Century Lutheran Hymn writer who is probably best known for writing “Go My Children with My Blessing” (Hymn 800 in “Worship Supplement 2000”).  This hymn depicts the ascension of Jesus after completing the work of salvation for sinners and highlights beautifully the nature of Christ as true Man and as our acceptable sacrifice before God.  It also brings out the Holy Spirit’s work of Sanctification in our lives today as we await the return of our ascended Savior and look forward to the day when we will be with our Triune God for eternity. 

Word of the Week: ASCENSION

Word of the Week: ASCENSION

In our Word of the Week, Pastor Mark Tiefel defines the word Ascension.  On Thursday of this week the church celebrates Ascension Day, when after 40 day of appearing to His disciples after His resurrection, Jesus ascended back into heaven.  The events of His ascension are recorded in Acts as well as Luke and Mark.  It is also confessed in our Creeds when we say that Jesus has “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”  Because Jesus has ascended into heaven, we have the confidence before the Father, because He serves as our Intercessor and Mediatior.  Just as He ascended into heaven, so He will come again to judge the world and so we proclaim His word so that others may hear, believe and be prepared for that Day! 

Bible Study – James

Bible Study – James

Today, Pastors Mark Tiefel and Nathanael Mayhew delve into the difficult New Testament letter of James.  Who is the James the wrote this letter?  What is the relationship between works and faith, and how can we reconcile what James write about works with what Paul writes about faith?  How does this letter apply to our lives today and our calling as Christians?  How are we to respond to sin in the our fellow believers and in the world around us?  These are just a few of the questions that they will consider as they dig into this valuable letter. We hope that you will join us!